Running for daylight the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws the ball on the run against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Sun Sep 19, 2021 (AP News photo)
By Joe Hawkes
PHILADELPHIA — In a city where they’re know for grit and toughness, the San Francisco 49ers were tougher and grittier going into Philadelphia and coming away with a 17-11 victory led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and a stingy defense that played strong all game long.
Garoppolo struggled with his accuracy early, sputtering the offense that led to three-straight three-and-outs. The offense failed to produce a first down, which is the longest streak to open the game under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
But Garoppolo shook off the shaky start and started making plays, completing 22-of-30 pass attempts for 189 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
“That’s part of being the quarterback. You gotta want the ball,” Garoppolo said.
Both of San Francisco’s touchdown drives went for 90-plus yards.
Philadelphia bungled an opportunity to go up 10-0 midway in the second quarter, instead of nursing a 3-0 lead thanks to a 45-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott in the first quarter.
After second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts connected with wide receiver Quez Watkins on a 91-yard completion to the San Francisco 6-yard line, the Eagles had a first down at the 1-yard line following a defensive pass interference penalty on veteran cornerback Josh Norman. But on fourth down from the 3-yard line, wide receiver Greg Ward took a flip on a reverse and threw an incomplete pass to Hurts in the back of the end zone.
On the ensuing drive, the 49ers utilized the final 4:12 remaining in the second quarter to get into the scoring column and take control of the game heading into halftime.
Starting from their own 3-yard line, Garopplo was razor sharp leading the 49ers down the field. Garoppolo completed a 5-yard pass to wide receiver Deebo Samuel on third-and-3. On the next set of downs, Garoppolo used his legs to pick up four yards on a quarterback sneak on third-and-1.
Following a timeout, Garoppolo connected with Samuel for a 40-yard completion over the middle of the field from their own 49-yard line before Samuel was brought down at the Philadelphia 11-yard line. On the next play, Garoppolo found wide receiver Jauan Jennings for the touchdown, giving the 49ers a 7-3 edge at halftime.
“For it to be 7-3 at halftime was pretty unbelievable,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
For the second straight week, Samuel led the 49ers in receiving hauling in six catches for 93 yards. Tight end George Kittle had four catches for just 17 yards.
Jennings’ first career catch (and touchdown) in the NFL, capped off a 12-play, 97-yard drive in 4:08. That was the longest scoring drive by the 49ers since Dec. 16, 2018 against the Seattle Seahawks.
After the Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession in the second half, the 49ers had their work cut out for them again after the Eagles punted the football to the San Francisco 9-yard line. But Garoppolo was unfazed, engineering an impressive 16-play, 91-yard drive punctuated by his 1-yard touchdown run that pushed San Francisco’s lead to 14-3 early in the fourth quarter.
On the ground, rookie running back Elijah Mitchell led the 49ers with 17 carries for 42 yards. The backfield did take some hits as Mitchell (shoulder), JaMychal Hasty (ankle) and Trey Sermon (concussion) all left the game with injuries. San Francisco entered Sunday’s game already without starting running back Raheem Mostert, who was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in Week 1.
Kicker Robbie Gould added a 46-yard field goal with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter extended San Francisco’s lead to 17-3. It felt the way that the defense was playing today, the 49ers were in the HOV lane to their second victory of the season.
Not so fast.
The Eagles weren’t ready to go down without a fight in front of a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in their home opener. Especially since it was the first time fans were inside “The Linc” since a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 5, 2020.
Philadelphia cut San Francisco’s lead to 17-11, following a 1-yard touchdown run by Hurts and a 2-point conversion by running back Kenny Gainwell. But the Eagles never got the football back.
Hurts finished the game completing just 12-of-23 pass attempts for 190 yards. He also rushed for 82 yards.
Hurts threw a 38-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jalen Reagor that was overturned because Reagor stepped out of bounds before he made the catch down the right sideline.
“We had a lot of opportunities we didn’t capitalize on,” Hurts said. “We have to be consistent in our execution. I have to be consistent in my execution as field general. A lot to learn.”
Missed opportunities hurt the Eagles’ chances at pulling out a victory for the eighth time in 10 games over the 49ers.
Defensive end Nick Bosa finished with two sacks, pacing a 49ers defense that allowed just 328 total net yards for the Eagles.
The 49ers (2-0) return home after practicing for a week at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia and a pair of road victories in the Eastern time zone in their pocket.
San Francisco host the visiting Green Bay Packers on prime time on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in their home opener at Levi’s Stadium for Week 3, while the Eagles (1-1) visit NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 27.